November 29, 2017

Student Work Crew Opportunities Teach Life Skills – and Quilting.

From: Marcia Latta

Youth in the Vocational and Educational Services for Older Youth (VESOY) program in the Young Women’s Transitional Program attend school at Riverside High School and have work crew duties. Work crew includes a range of unskilled and semi-skilled tasks that allow them to earn money for necessities and treats and apply work experience toward high school completion requirements. For every 130 hours of work crew, students can receive one elective credit for school.

“From an educational perspective, work crew teaches valuable employment skills like team-building,  problem solving, reliability and persistence,” said Principal Joy Koenig. “We think it complements the academic work they are doing in class, and most students are eager to sign up.”
Work crew duties include janitorial and maintenance assignments, skill-building opportunities like tractor and forklift operations and other duties as assigned, which are often community service projects in Albany.

One of those service opportunities has become a plum assignment that students are eager to do. Twice a month, work crew travels to the VFW Hall to make quilts.
“The girls love it,” said OYA Group Life Coordinator Terri Santini, who accompanies the youth. “We’ve been coming here for years now. The girls enjoy the work and they spend the day with some very caring older women, who tell great stories and really care about the girls.”

The assignment started several years ago with a work crew assignment to weed the flower beds at the VFW. The students were soon invited inside for a more important assignment – to work on quilts for veterans.
The lead project volunteers are grandmotherly women who teach the girls to put the quilts together, tie them and prepare them for distribution. It is a long day – usually from 9 a.m. to late afternoon – but the women also bring homemade lunch, or buy them sandwiches and snacks.

“These women have been very generous to our youth. They pay for lunch themselves,” said Santini. “And they have been wonderful role models. For many of the girls, it is the grandmother experience they have never had.”
The quilt project started decades ago at the VFW. Bertie, the lead volunteer, estimates it was in the 1950s or 60s. The quilts are distributed to veterans in the VA hospital in Roseburg by volunteers and the contribution value is significant. A receipt for a donation last spring shows a typical delivery of 30 quilts valued at $3,750. Donations are made several times per year.

“Work crew is more than just learning how to do a task,” said Koenig. “It teaches young people how to interact with all types of people, and it is an opportunity for them to give back, which is both satisfying and it can be healing for them.”
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